Joe Biden was on Wednesday sworn in as the 46th President of the United States at a scaled-down ceremony overseen by over 20,000 National Guards in Washington DC.
Biden took the oath of office administered by US Chief Justice, John Roberts, and became the oldest US president in history at age 78.
The president in his inaugural address pledged to end the “uncivil war” in the deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans, Reuters reports.
He said, “To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this – if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
The National Mall, usually packed with throngs of supporters, was filled with US flags in a reminder of the pandemic Biden will confront as the president.
Speaking on the steps of the Capitol, where supporters of then-President Donald Trump clashed with police in a chaotic assault that left five dead on January 6, Biden cast his ascension as proof that the attackers had failed to disrupt the underpinnings of American democracy.
“Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work on our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen; it will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever,” Biden said.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
Trump, who did not accept the election defeat, skipped the ceremony as he refused to meet with Biden or attend his successor’s inauguration, breaking with a political tradition seen as affirming the peaceful transfer of power.
He also did not mention his successor during his last address at the Joint Base Andrew from where he boarded Air Force One for the last time and flew to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.
Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, attended Biden’s inauguration, along with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and their spouses.
World leaders react
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said his regime looked forward to the Presidency of the new US President, “with great hope.”
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, titled, ‘President Buhari: We look forward to working with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris,’ Buhari expressed the hope that the Presidency of Biden and Harris would strengthen cooperation and support for Nigeria and Africa.
The statement reads partly, “We hope that this will be an era of great positivity between our two nations, as we jointly address issues of mutual interest.”
In a tweet, the European Union President, Ursula Leyen said the US was back and Europe was ready to reconnect with “an old and trusted partner to breathe new life into our cherished alliance….”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I look forward to working with him (Biden), and with his new administration, strengthening the partnership between our countries and working on our shared priorities: from tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security.”
German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a video statement described the inauguration as a good day for democracy.
Pope Francis in a message said, “Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding.”
Meanwhile, President Biden on his first day in office signed Executive Order, including implementing a national mask mandate on federal property, revoking a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and reversing a travel ban from several largely Muslim and African countries, officials said.
The Wall Street Journal reports that coming after Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president in a midday ceremony, the actions are intended to signal a more aggressive approach to the coronavirus pandemic and end some of President Trump’s key policies while setting the agenda for the next four years.
Biden signed executive orders from the Oval Office in the late afternoon.
“I thought there’s no time to wait. Get to work immediately,” he told reporters.
Biden signed 15 bills on his first day in office.